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So, if you’re reading this, Part 1 of this post where I detailed my long list of reasons as to why you may not want to start your own work from home transcription business clearly hasn’t put you off. And, good for you. You may be a little crazy, but I like that. So, here I’m going to lay out for you some of the key info I wish someone had shared with me when I was doing the groundwork to get my transcription business up and running. Of course, the info provided below is by no means exhaustive, and you’re going to have to do your own in-depth research to make sure you cover all the bases involved in setting up your own business (It’s painful. I know.).
As I mentioned in Part 1 of this post, I spent a LOT of time just getting my typing skills up to scratch, before I even started actually setting up the business. I started with researching an appropriate keyboard to use, and after a heap of research, I settled on a mechanical keyboard. I went with a DAS Model S Professional Clicky MX Blue, and I’ve got to say, I love it. I find it super comfy to use and my typing speed has definitely increased a lot while using it (while it’s hard to say how exactly much of the improvement is simply from all my practice, versus the fancy keyboard, the general consensus out there is that mechanical keyboards do help increase typing speed). If, like most people working from home, you’re working from a laptop, you’ll have to seriously consider investing in a keyboard of some type, even if it’s just a basic one, as the typical laptop keyboard setup is not, in my opinion, optimum for a heavy load of typing work. And also, if you’re going to take up a heavy transcription workload, you’ll want the screen to be at eye level, so you’re looking out at it, not down, which will place the laptop keyboard at an unworkable location and angle, necessitating a separate keyboard. You’ll probably require a stand to get your laptop at the best angle and height. I’m at my computer so much these days that I’m looking at upgrading my stand for maximum functionality and usability, and this is the one I’ve got my eye on.
I also invested in a transcription foot pedal upfront – there are various ones to choose from, but by far the most popular one seems to be the Infinity (It’s the one I chose, and I’ve found it great to use). You’ll also need a headset of some description for transcription, and it’s something I’d personally recommend you don’t skimp on, as being able to clearly hear the audio is obviously essential for transcription work (and, if you’re going to be wearing it for hours each day, you’ll want a headset that’s comfortable!). I use a Microsoft Lifechat headset, and with its in-line volume controls, six-foot cable, and comfy ear pads, I’ve found it meets my needs really well.
You will also need to buy some transcription software at some point, but it’s not essential to get that up front – if you start off working with a major online company (more on that below) it’s quite likely they’ll have their own online platform, so separate transcription software probably won’t be needed, and it’s more likely you’ll need to buy software later on, when you pick up an Australian company as a client. When you do eventually buy some transcription software, it is important to make sure it’s compatible with your foot pedal. (I’m actually in the process of changing the software I use, so I’ll fill you in more on my software recommendations in a future post).
Once I had the hardware sorted, I used the Key Hero free typing test website to get an idea of my baseline typing speed. My speed was woeful when I started – it was in the mid 30’s – miles off the minimum 65 – 80 WPM most clients want, so don’t be too discouraged if yours isn’t great either. This is something you can fix, with some (well, a lot of) work.
Then, I started work on learning the proper finger placement for touch typing, and working on my accuracy and speed. I pretty much exclusively used a site called Typing Club for this. Typing Club is a fantastic FREE site with a heap of resources for you to work through to improve your typing skills (they also have a paid version of the site, where you get access to even more resources, and while it’s terrific and, in my opinion, well worth the small monthly fee ($8.50 USD per month, which can be cancelled at any time), it’s also not necessary if you can’t afford it or simply don’t want to pay – the free version is fantastic and more than met my needs). I probably spent at least an hour pretty much every night for a couple of months working my way through the different levels on Typing Club, getting my accuracy and speed up.
Once my speed was up at around the 75WPM mark, I began applying for transcription contractor work I found advertised on the Seek jobs site. I got no replies. Not one. NOTHING. Now that I have some experience in the industry, I understand why I didn’t get any replies – it was painfully evident from my application that I was a rank beginner. When I found I was getting nowhere with my applications, I did some more research and found that there are some online transcription companies that will hire beginner transcriptionists from anywhere in the world (as long as you pass their test/s).
Now, here are the main things to know with online transcription companies: there aren’t that many that hire from Australia – the two best known ones I can tell you about are Rev and TranscribeMe. And, the other big thing is that they don’t pay that much (I worked for TranscribeMe, and they currently pay $15 – $22 USD per audio hour). While that sounds okay, when you consider that, as a beginner, it’ll probably take you somewhere around six to eight hours to transcribe one hour of audio, when you average it out, it’s not a great return for your time investment. BUT, I still completely recommend working with these companies. This is because it’s pretty much impossible to break into this industry without some experience, and these companies are happy to take you as a complete beginner and give you experience. You get given a detailed style guide to study and work from, and from this I learnt the fundamentals of transcription. In my experience, while different companies will have different style specifics that they require of you, you can develop a good understanding of the fundamentals of transcription working with these online companies. With TranscribeMe, I got feedback on every single piece I worked on, with each lot of feedback giving me an accuracy percentage and also highlights in the transcript showing me exactly where any errors were. The have a support desk you can reach out to with any questions, and they were extremely helpful and supportive when I got in touch with them. I heard another transcriptionist responding to criticism of these online companies (the main/only criticism I’ve heard is the low pay) by pointing out that it’s essentially paid training, and I couldn’t agree more. In only a short time working with TranscribeMe, I had developed my skills to the point that I was able to ace the test with an Australian company and set my own, much more favourable, pay rate.
Now, once you get to the point where your typing skills are pretty rock-solid and you’re ready to start pursuing work with local companies, the question becomes where to find them. Seek is a great place to start, as they often have ads from Australian companies looking for sole trader transcriptionists. There are also several Australian companies that either advertise on their own website when they are seeking contractors, or welcome applications from appropriately skilled individuals at any time (I’d STRONGLY recommend you don’t get in touch with them until you are appropriately skilled and experienced, as with most/all companies I’ve researched, you need to pass various tests in order work with them, and if you haven’t developed your skills to a pretty high standard, there’s no way you’ll pass the test/s. You’ll just be wasting everyone’s time and potentially costing yourself the chance of working with that company in the future). Below are some of the companies you could consider investigating further. I do not currently and have not previously work with any of these specific companies, so I cannot personally vouch for them, but as far as I know, they are legitimate businesses.
So, that’s the process that I undertook to get my skills and experience to a point that I could seek and obtain work in the industry here in Australia. It was a long, slow process, and it took a tonne of (unpaid) effort. (Also, just to clarify, as mentioned above and also in Part 1 of this post, my 100 – 200 hours of work to get my transcription skills up to scratch was unpaid. You may be a little confused by this though, as I’ve discussed in detail above that TranscribeMe offers paid transcription work. While it is indeed paid work, there is a minimum threshold you need to reach to be paid out for your work [from memory, I think it’s $20 USD, which is completely reasonable, in my opinion. It’d be ridiculous for their payroll department to be processing payments for a couple of dollars at a time]. Anyway, I never actually reached that threshold – that’s how quickly my skills developed and I was able to seek and obtain higher paying work. I think I earned around $12 with TM before my skills were at a point that I picked up a local company as a client, and I was able to set my own, much higher, pay rate, and I never looked back. As I’ve mentioned in other parts of this post series, I wouldn’t be successfully running my own transcription business today if I hadn’t been able to get a start with TranscribeMe, so I’m not at all bothered about this, I’m actually just really grateful for the opportunity they gave me and where I have been able to go from there).
The other main aspect that you’ll have to address if you’re setting up your own transcription business is, of course, the legal business requirements for setting up a business here in Australia. Getting an ABN, sorting out your taxes and insurance, getting a police check, learning about invoicing, etc, etc. I’m in no way qualified to offer advice on these kinds of matters, but the one thing I do want to say is that for me, it was all HEAPS easier than I thought it would be. I just had to stop procrastinating and get started, and once I bit the bullet and got on with it, I never looked back. There are some terrific government websites and resources out there to help you, and the internet puts everything at your fingertips, so if you just start making a list and get Googling, I’m confident you’ll find it’s not as hard as you may be imagining.
Happy business building!